You by Caroline Kepnes is the very definition of creepy. It’s the kind of book that leaves you wanting to give yourself a good scrubbing after you read it. It’s the kind of book that makes you pretty sure you are never giving your children a phone, a computer, access to anything online ever again. It’s the kind of book you absolutely can not put down.
Joe Goldberg runs a bookshop in the East Village. One day Guinivere Beck walks into his store and Joe takes a shine to her. They exchange witty banter about books, names, Kindles and she leaves. The problem is, that instead of just straight up asking Beck for her number, Joe decides that she is ‘the one’ and finds out absolutely everything he needs to know about her, online. Before the end of Chapter One, you know who Joe is. He’s ‘that guy’, the one we warn our daughters about. The kind of man who seems so normal, but isn’t. The supreme loner, who thinks that he has all the answers.
As with Slade House by David Mitchell, I kept thinking all the way through, that this isn’t my kind of book. I don’t read books like this, not stories that are this disturbing, where the central character is clearly a psychopath who will stop at nothing and where the only possible ending is a bad one. As odious and as clever as Joe is, Beck is the perfect foil. Her character is that of the entitled millennial, unable to settle to anything, always looking for a sense of validation or self worth online. In many ways, the two are perfectly suited, were it not for the fact that Joe will stop at nothing to ingratiate himself into Beck’s life. As a consequence you end up rooting for a character for which you don’t particularly care, but which represents the lesser of the two evils. These are horrible people, but their story is captivating.
My attitude to this book and the enjoyment which it gave me is without question a result of the author’s style. Caroline Kepnes is one of the creepiest and most gifted writers I have ever come across. It’s hard not to have an almost physical disgust for her characters and to write so convincingly as not only a man, but a psychopath, takes an incredible talent. Buy it!